Preview

Music

Giving the people what they want, and if they don’t know, telling them

SANDRA PEREDO January 10 1977
Preview

Music

Giving the people what they want, and if they don’t know, telling them

SANDRA PEREDO January 10 1977

Music

Preview

Giving the people what they want, and if they don’t know, telling them

Inside the glittering Milan opera house, elegant first-nighters showered roses on the stage as Otello reached its finale. Outside, the proletariat showered firebombs on the theatre in protest against the display of elitism. As patrons—who paid up to $161 a seat for this season’s opening—left the state-subsidized La Scala, they muttered angrily into their expensive dentures, “Let them hear rock.”

It couldn’t happen in Canada, where state-subsidized Serious Music organizations—Canada Council grants for the 1976-77 season totaled $6,958,000—are currently going through a jes’ folks stage, and the prevailing attitude of symphony orchestras, chamber groups and opera companies is a loud and hearty “Y’all come.” It’s called “democratization,” and we can expect a lot more of it in 1977. Watch and listen for:

• Ever more manifestations of The Danny Newman Method. Newman, Chicago Lyric Opera publicist, is on a Canada Council retainer of about $20,000 annually and regularly passes from sea to sea telling symphonies how to tune up their subscriptions with hard-sell. To Newman, the single-ticket buyer is “the enemy” who picks and chooses among concerts. The season subscriber is part of “the family,” someone who gives you money in advance as an act of faith, and doesn’t ask for it back if there’s a blizzard the night of the show. The philosophy: Sell Entertainment, and sell it as you would any other commodity, such as Coca-Cola or lipstick. The method: Zappy brochures, massive repetitive mailings, fund-raising kaffeeklatches. It’s been effective: the Vancouver Symphony (which subscribes to the Newman Method) has a subscription list of 28,000, second highest of any symphony on the continent.

• More Gustav Mahler. Currently in vogue, possibly as a result of Ken Russell’s film, Mahler, which seems to be doing for this romantic German composer what A Clockwork Orange did for Beethoven, 2001 for Richard Strauss, and Barry Lyndon for Schubert. If the emotional impact of the film got to you, there’s a good chance the music did too, you’ll want to hear more of it, and symphonic series-planners try to give you what you want. For a 1978 prediction, check the soundtrack of Kubrick’s next flick.

• A lot of noise about the freeze in grants. The Canada Council is threatened with a cutback this year—even the Treasury Board doesn’t know for sure what it will be—and the Association of Canadian

Orchestras is lobbying on behalf of its 46 member organizations. The problem is as serious as Serious Music to the lobbyists because musicians’ salaries, although not super-high, still add up. Even with box-office, private fund-raising and full houses, there’s usually a deficit. “Keep those cards and letters coming” will be the theme of the association’s write-in campaign which, it is hoped, will involve 600,000 preprinted statements to the PM, the Secretary of State and local MPS.

• More live music in your community. The problem of lining up top-flight musicians with interested but possibly inexperienced promoters is being met by CONTACT, a Canada-Council sponsored

program that runs annually in both eastern and western Canada. This year, it was held in Vancouver and Fredericton. Soloists and classical groups arrive from all over the country to “audition” at 20-minute intervals for buyers from universities, smalltown chamber societies and orchestras that want to book acts. It’s not quite the “meat market” of New York conventions where a buyer casually browsing the promotional material might find his lapel tugged at 20minute intervals by an eager manager: “Hey mister, want a good violinist? How about Isaac Stern?” The Canadian way is a

little less “pushy”—you hear the show, make your notes, go home to mull for a month, then place your order.

• Lots of toe-tapping, turn-of-the-century bandshell sounds. It’s like patient participation at the dentist. Tarara-boom-deay. waving batons, cavalry-coming-overthe-hill so that, says Toronto Symphony publicist Stephen Adler, “even if you’re wearing a tuxedo, you feel alive inside.” Expect a surfeit of William Tell overtures and other “old warhorses” during which you not only get to stomp your foot, you know when the stomps are coming.

• The Canadian Opera Company’s new

general director, Lotfi Mansouri. Like other opera company directors in Winnipeg and Edmonton, Mansouri doesn’t have much cash—but his philosophy does seem to fit beautifully with the current “democratization.” At the coc’s booze and cookies press conference to announce the coming season, he said he means to get away from the traditional La Bohèmes that fill the house and try some rarer fare. But, baited a reporter, Canadian audiences like the golden oldies. How will you fill the empty seats? Who will you play to? “I shall play, sir,” replied Mansouri, without missing a beat, “to whatever god you care to recommend.” SANDRA PEREDO